City Map for Blog on Voting Residence

What's My Voting Residence Address? Good Question!

There’s no place like home – when you’re preparing to vote

Voting in the United States is both a right and a responsibility. As with almost any other new responsibility, before setting out as a voter, it’s a good idea to prepare by running through a checklist. Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I a U.S. citizen? (Note that some municipalities permit non-citizens to vote in municipal – not state or federal – elections only.)
  • Am I 18 years of age or older? If you’re old enough to defend us in battle, you’re old enough to vote! At the same time, many states allow younger (16 or 17-year-old) voters to register if they will be 18 on Election Day when they vote.
  • Does anything prevent me from voting today? – like a court’s determination or a former felony conviction? (Even if your state does prevent you from voting today, you may nevertheless regain that right in the future. Plus, you still have the right to lobby your governor or state representatives today to change the current law!)
  • And where do I live – for purposes of voter registration?

For many people, that last question is a no-brainer. If you haven’t moved from your home in Boise for the last ten years, or see no reason to ever leave Detroit, then you’ve got your answer. Check your voter status to make sure you’re still on the registration roll by plugging in your current address. If you’ve never registered from your current address, use US Vote Foundation’s voter registration tool to register today.

Registering from one’s home address may be simple for those who don’t move around much. But for those Americans who relocate regularly – roughly 10% of the country moves each year – preparing to vote can feel a little trickier.  Where do you vote if you just moved?

If you have two homes, from which one do you register? What if you live abroad, or in a different state, as a military member or ex-pat? Or maybe you’re a student studying outside your home state? Even homeless? We talk you through it below.

First, note that in many states an eligible voter must have lived – “resided” or “domiciled” – there for a certain period (usually twenty to thirty days) before registering to vote. Residence and domicile are funny legal concepts; essentially, the state wants to ensure you “intend” to live there, but don’t worry too much about long-term investments.

Second, on top of residency requirements, over half the states also require would-be voters to register by a certain cut-off deadline, generally around 30 days before an election. Fortunately, handfuls of states offer same-day registration on Election Day or during early voting. Check your current state’s registration deadlines and opportunities.

I moved within the state … where do I go to vote?

If you moved within your state after the registration deadline, check your state’s rules and requirements. Some permit you to register and vote at your new polling location; some require you to return to your old polling location to cast a ballot. Contact your local election official on where to go well before Election Day!

I’m a snowbird. Half the time I live in New York, and half the time I live in Florida! Where should I vote?

Lucky you! Hopefully, this goes without saying, but you may only vote once – and from just one location. Vote from the state you identify as “home” or in which you spend the most amount of time. If you spend seven months in Florida each year, and the remaining five months in New York, then consider getting registered and voting from the Sunshine State. But again, check your home state’s rules. For example, New York permits citizens to vote in that state if they have a “fixed” and “permanent” home to which they intend to return; using a sporadic summer rental in the Empire State as one’s registration address won’t cut it.

I’m from Arizona but stationed in Arkansas with the military. Where do I vote from?

Your voting residence is whatever you consider your permanent home, assuming you have a physical presence there. If you’re now stationed in Arkansas and consider this your home, then you can vote from there. If you know you’ll be heading back to Arizona, and are wrapping up your service in Arkansas, then you can instead vote from Arizona. It’s important to note that, even if you intend to make a certain state your home, you’re not required to have a crystal ball! People change plans often; what matters is your intent, and physical presence, for the foreseeable future.

Check out US Vote’s tool for military/overseas voters for registration assistance and absentee ballot requests.

I moved to Spain five years ago. Can I still vote? And from where?

As an American citizen, your right to vote carries wherever in the world you might be (and for whatever reason you’re there). Just ensure that you’re registered from your last home state, and request an absentee ballot with enough time to receive, vote, and return it by mail.  US Vote has created a convenient Overseas Voting FAQ initiative with a helpful Q&A on voting from abroad, plus links to registration and absentee ballot requests.

Help, I’m a student! Do I vote from home or my new college address?

It’s up to you! Whereas some states – like New Hampshire – initially tried to keep incoming college students from voting in-state, every state in the country now permits students to either vote from their college address or their previous one (e.g. parents’ home). Check your state’s ID requirements; some accept student IDs for voting purposes, but others don’t.

And before you make your decision, find your polling place to see if it’s in a convenient location. Unfortunately, polling places sometimes shut down on campuses. If you decide to vote from your home state, instead of your campus address, ensure that you’re registered there – and then request your absentee ballot as soon as possible!

What if you’re homeless? Or couch surfing?

You may register from the location where you spend the most amount of time, including a description of an intersection, if you’re not located at a specific address (like a shelter or friend’s home). Check your state’s rules on registering while homeless.